It has been many years since we left what is, arguably, Britain’s most remote inhabited island: Foula, one of the Shetland Islands. However, we have not moved far and are now enjoying retirement in a West of Shetland village.
I use the word retirement loosely because I still carry out pulpit supply work regularly. This is especially true at the moment, since the Church of Scotland in Shetland is in a time of massive reorganization — the church is in the process of being reduced to one parish out of the current thirteen. These are indeed stormy times for our churches, but these changes have come about due to the elderly and dwindling congregation and a shortage of ministers.
As I write this, our little house is being buffeted by strong winds.
Life on Foula was controlled by the weather. Westerly storms, with winds that regularly exceeded 100 miles per hour, could make going out of doors extremely dangerous. When such weather persisted for days on end, there would be no links with the Mainland of Shetland and supplies could run low, since the island had no shop.
What was amazing about such times was how the community would rally round and ensure that no one went without. We might get a phone call asking if we had any tea to spare and if we would be willing to exchange some for a piece of lamb. Of course, such calls could often be lengthy and were frequently ‘lichtsome’ (light-hearted), so they helped to drive away the gloom of a foul day.
As I think back to the storms we faced on Foula, I am reminded of all of life’s storms — both real and metaphorical — and give thanks to God for calming each and every one of them in God’s time and way.
I pray that through God’s divine intervention, you may all find your calm and peaceful haven.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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